LAFAYETTE — Coming off two comeback wins, the Ragin’ Cajuns came out with a different agenda Saturday.
However, they also came out with a different result, as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette women’s basketball team saw a 14-point halftime lead disappear in the span of six minutes in a 57-51 loss.
Whereas the Cajuns were the ones erasing big deficits a week ago in San Marcos, Texas, and Thursday at home against Appalachian State, this time, Texas-Arlington was the one with some second-half magic.
“They did a good job taking care of the ball, and they were efficient in the half-court (offense),” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “Maybe we should have kept pressing on defense, but I just felt from the beginning that we didn’t have the energy.”
Toma Zaleckaite helped energize the Maverick offense by canning a few 15-foot jumpers early in the second half from around the free-throw line area. She pulled her team within 34-32 when she scored with 14:54 remaining.
The Cajuns also faced a problem when freshman post player Simone Fields picked up her third foul early in the second half as she was trying to contend with the Mavs’ 6-foot-5 freshman Rebekah Van Dijk. The UTA center went on to post a double-double by finishing the game with 14 points and 15 rebounds (and four blocks). “That hurt us,” Brodhead said. “People think Simone is there for her offense, but she is strong inside (defensively), I thought she did a really good job in the first half, and her not being there in the second half hurt us.”
After the Mavericks made their comeback, the Cajuns managed to pull back ahead and grab a 45-40 lead on a Jaylyn Gordon jumper with 6:10 left in the game. But Cierra Johnson answered with a 3-pointer to close that gap quickly. After Van Dijk scored on a layup to tie the score at 45-45, the Cajuns never led again.
That development was a stark contrast to the opening 20 minutes, when the Cajuns made 6-of-11 3-point attempts to help build their lead. They were 1-for-14 from long distance in the second half.
“We figured they (the Mavericks) would go to their half-court trap defense,” Cajuns’ guard Kia Wilridge said. “When they played zone, it got us, because we weren’t knocking down shots the same way we were in the first half.”
Wilridge and Robbie Brown each hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half. They combined for 18 points in the first half. The Cajuns scored 19 points in the second half.
Keke Veal led the Cajuns (15-7, 7-6 in the Sun Belt) in scoring with 15 points. Brown had 12 points and Wilridge finished with 11 points. Johnson and Zaleckaite each had 13 points for the Mavericks (12-9, 6-6).
The Cajuns will be on the road for their next two SBC games. They will face Louisiana-Monroe on Thursday and Troy on Saturday.